A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Dolly tells children about her "Imagination Library" that she built in honor of her father and that has given away almost two hundred million books to children all over the world.
The special is all about kindness, love and compassion along with the message that It's better to give than to receive. Dolly talks specifically about being poor, but still happy, growing up.
Positive Role Models
Dolly says about her young grandnephew, "I'm going to accept and love him not matter what or who he is because I believe, whoever you are be that" and then sings a song "Whatever You are, Be That." She also selflessly lets her choreographer leave the day of her live broadcast to follow her life's dream of working with the Rockettes.
One main character is a Black woman. Gay actor Brian Batt plays a role.
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Violence & Scariness
In one song, Dolly repeatedly tells Satan to go back to hell. Satan himself is played by a man in a black suit flanked by sexy dancers and Dolly preaches to a literal choir, "Brother and sisters, I'm here to tell you that Satan is real… Satan, in God's name I rebuke you."
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
In one song, a couple of sexy dancers flank a man in black who is supposed to be Satan.
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Occasional mild profanity includes "butt," "damn," "ass," and "hell."
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Products & Purchases
Much of the special is set in Dolly Parton's real life amusement park, Dollywood, and they refer to it by name often. At the beginning of the special there's product placement of a GMC SUV that brings people to the park.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
One of the song mentions "addicts" and "drunks."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Dolly Parton's Mountain Magic Christmas is a singing and dancing Christmas special heavily centered around the Christian faith. The show is all about acceptance, love, and kindness along with the message that It's better to give than to receive. Dolly talks specifically about being poor, but still happy, growing up in the mountains of Tennessee. Many of the songs are religious. In one, Dolly Parton sings to a man dressed in a black suit portraying the Devil, with a couple of sexy dancers flanking him. She repeatedly tells him to go back to hell, while standing in front of a large screen with flames, and then preaches to a literal choir, "Brother and sisters, I'm here to tell you that Satan is real… Satan, in God's name I rebuke you".
The cast is almost completely White, with the exception of one minor character who only has a couple of lines and one featured character played by a Black woman. Occasional mild profanity includes "butt", "hell", "ass", and "damn". In one problematic song, Dolly sings, "some are preachers, some are gay. Some are addicts, drunks and strays but no one is turned away when it's family".
Is It Any Good?
Not shying away from everything it means to be the one and only Dolly Parton, her latest holiday special will delight fans but may be too much for the uninitiated. Unsurprisingly, Dolly Parton's Mountain Magic Christmas is a quintessential variety special. Although the story is fictional, Dolly and her musician friends (Miley Cyrus, Willy Nelson, and more) play themselves while other familiar faces like Tom Everett Scott and Ana Gasteyer play poorly written Hollywood executives. With glittery costumes and simple but colorful set designs, many of the numbers feel like they're being performed straight from the stage of The Grand 'Ol Opry. But the rest of the scenes, set in Dollywood, feel more like a commercial for Parton's real-life theme park.
In true Dolly fashion, the hour and a half special promotes a bevy of positive messages including accepting yourselves and others, it being better to give than to receive, and to always have hope. Dolly's Imagination Library, which has donated nearly two hundred million books to children around the world, also gets some much deserved recognition. Many viewers will appreciate Dolly's uniquely irreverent and accepting brand of Christianity. (She closes the show by saying, "I hope that I haven't crammed God or Jesus down anybody's throat… I guess nobody knows for certain if there is a heaven. But if there is, I just hope the hell I go.") Despite this self-awareness, though, the show still takes a few notable missteps. One number that seems woefully out of place for a holiday special is a song in which Dolly repeatedly tells Satan to go back to hell. The choice to have the only person of color also be the character that needs to see the error in her ways -- and the condescending overtures of her white male counterpart -- is also hard to swallow. As is a song sung by Dolly that preaches accepting family no matter what, but also seems to compare being gay to being an addict or a "stray." All this to say, those who know what to expect from Ms. Parton will come away from this special satisfied, but others may be left scratching their heads.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.